People have been telling me to go into Orinoco (Shawmut - south end in the Mass Ave direction), but I only just recently made it in.
This is (almost) exactly what I think Boston needs to see more of - real food, cooked from the heart with authenticity, but not pretension! So many chefs in this town spend too much time emulating the shwank joints in Chicago and NYC that get so much press, that we really wind up missing out on Straight Chow.
Even though they were out of everything I tried to order first (from wine to food), all of my 'second choices' scored big:
Domino Arepa ... not only was the corn-flavored, textured bread nice, but the beans were easily the best prepared (seasoning and bite) I have had in years. Don't remember the type of cheese that was melted into, it but I do remember loving the process of getting messy eating it.
Lamb Chops - these have gotten some good press (most recently in Boston Mag), and quite deservingly - temperature was on the money, lamb was juicy and flavorful (not boring beef-tasting like some restaurants serve) and the accompanying salad and sauces were delicious.
The staff was definitely informal (almost to a fault), but genuinely warm and excited about everyone's dining experience.
And the place was Hopping! Great to see.